Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How do I kill a flyer?

As I get ready to bring my IG into the arena of battle, I've asked myself this question over and over.  It's a commonly-held belief that flyers have completely changed the meta for 40k, and may have even ruined any hope of balance in the game.  I'm not one to disagree, but then again, I get caught up in the sensationalism like anyone else.  So let's take a more rational approach...

First off, flyers have certainly changed the meta.  After all, Forgeworld rules used to be the only way to bring aircraft into the game.  Worse, the rules for flyers from FW were ridiculous and made them a heinous opponent to have to face.  I once was crushed in a massive game way back in 2002 just because my opponent fielded a Marauder Destroyer bomber (on top of a couple of Baneblades).  I watched as the useless Marneus Calgar was effortlessly killed by a model I couldn't take down.  It was terrible.  Luckily, flyers were too expensive, the books were even more expensive, and the tournament scene didn't allow FW.  But that's changed.

Now GW has incorporated flyers into the core rules and released models for half the armies on the tabletop right now.  Thankfully, the old rules are out and the 'core' rules make flyers easier to handle.  In 5th edition, flyers were simply overblown skimmers, but 6th edition made flyers real and now they need to be answered.  The meta for the game has proven that flyer-spam is the new thing and anyone not ready to handle it will find a less-than-satisfying game.  Hell, the ranking of the newest spam-lists has gone from 1. Chimera-vets, 2. Long Fang missiles, 3... to 1. Necron Night(insert name here), 2. Heldrakes, 3...  Yeah, it's become that obvious.  But there's always an answer, even if that answer is not 'guaranteed.'  Let's look at what those could be.

What do flyers do?
  • Well, they are models that are FORCED to stay in reserve.  This does NOT count against the reserve limit because the main rules require that the model not be deployed at the beginning of the game.  That means that an opponent will always lose at least one turn of shooting against the things.  This is an overlooked advantage.
  • They usually 'zoom,' which means they MUST move in a straight line of either 18"(combat speed) or 36"(cruising speed).  Notice the straight line thing?  This is important as many a player has been caught fiddling with the movement to get just the right angle that they wouldn't have been able to achieve otherwise.
  • They are hard to maneuvre, allowed only a single turn UP TO 90 degrees.  Again, this is something many a player has been caught fiddling with and should be watched.  That prohibitive nature of turning can lead to a flyer being flown clear off the table, or simply flying behind the enemy lines and being ineffective for a turn.  
  • They are difficult to attack.  Flyers may never be assaulted, and any shooting at them requires 6's to hit (unless the firing unit has the 'skyfire' special rule).  Better yet, because of this rule, flyers may NEVER be targetted by template or blast weapons.  This is the roughest part for most players.
  • Flyers can fire up to four weapons while 'zooming,' of which they must choose whether they are firing in the 'skyfire' mode or standard 'strafing' mode (not to be confused with the special rule, 'strafing run').  In addition, missiles count as weapons as well, are one-shot, and can only be fired two-at-a-time.  This would be helpful, if most missiles weren't as powerful as missiles should be.  But it's a still a rule.
  • If they suffer a glancing or penetrating hit, the flyer may take a 'jink' save, meaning it gains a 5+ invulnerable save for the rest of the turn.  However, it may only fire its weapons as 'snap fire,' which means any blast weapons are useless.  If the model suffers an immobilized result, it has a 'locked velocity' effect, meaning it CANNOT change speed, evade (take that 'jink' save), or move flat out.  This happens for the rest of the game.
  • If a flyer zooms off the table, it enters 'ongoing reserves,' which means it will arrive immediately on the controlling player's next turn.  Sometimes this is the best option, and sometimes it's not an option at all.
  • Finally, some flyers have the 'hover' special rule, meaning it can choose to become a skimmer at the beginning of the shooting phase.  This completely negates all the special invulnerabilities that flyers gain, but it also gives them a chance to forgo the restrictive movement rules.
Getting all this down will help a player better deal with flyers.  Knowing these basic rules can allow a player to plan for and address this issue.  There are more rules, but these are the ones the enemy needs to know.  KNOW THINE ENEMY, anyone?

What do I do to mitigate flyers?

Let's start off with knowing the rules I listed above.  This is important as it'll allow you to plan it out.  For example, knowing that a flyer must move at least 18" and can only make a turn of up to 90 degrees can allow some tricks to be executed in the movement phase.  Here's the piece of advice there:
 -move UNDER the flyer, or at least closer than 18".  Unlike a falling tree, don't run to the side of it, run under it!  And unlike a normal vehicle, getting closer is actually beneficial.  Now, if you're playing a horde army, there's another great piece of advice here:
 -spread out!  A flyer may not finish its move within 1" of enemy models, just like any other unit in the game, so covering the field can make flyers HAVE TO fly off the board.  Anyone that played against Daemons in 5th edition understand this strategy already.  

But what if you're not playing a horde army?  Not a problem, there's something for you as well (hopefully):
 -bring heavy armour!!!  Very few flyers are packing weapons higher than Str 7, and vehicles that have an AV13 or higher can really become a concern.  In fact, Land Raiders are a bane to flyer-heavy armies, with other transports giving the infantry some hope.  Some armies don't have heavy armour, but hey, it happens.  For all those common Space Marine Players- bring your Phobos/Crusader/Redeemer out to play.  

What do I have in the toolbox to fight flyers?

Aha!  This is where we get to have a bit of fun.  There's alot of options here, and even more now that the Game Designers have figured out that the flyer-meta has taken over.  So what does a normal player get?

To begin with, the newest codices seem to have a good deal of 'Flakk' missile upgrades for the units.  CSM have them in Havocs, and Dark Angels have them everywhere there's a missile launcher option.  If you're not a Marine player (or MEQ), then you're Daemons and have the Soulgrinder with 'skyfire' upgrade available, or you're Tau and have the 'skyfire' on Broadsides and the Skyray tank (they finally returned it to its former glory; thanks GW!).  So look to your new book and see what you have.  It's not going to be cheap, in most cases, but it's there.  And as more and more books get released, we'll see more stuff.  In fact, I venture that the flyer-spam will disappear by the end of the year just because of the options available.  

In addition, alot of armies have 'Flying Monstrous Creatures.'  And by alot, I really mean two of them- Daemons and Tyranids.  If nothing else, the Heldrake should almost be considered here as well, since it's nothing more than a FMC with vehicle stats (sorta).  But these monsters can be used to 'Vector Strike' a flyer.  Here's how that works (for actual FMC):
 -In 'Swooping' mode, the model moves between 12" and 24", acting like a flyer in almost all ways.
 -During its movement, the model may move over enemy models.  It may choose one enemy unit moved over in this way and immediately inflicts d3+1 automatic hits at base Strength, AP 3 (so no additional effect there), and against side armour (most flyers are side armour 11, maybe even 10)
 -During the shooting phase, it may then fire one more weapon, since Monsters can only fire two weapons and 'Vector Strike' counts as firing one weapon.
Otherwise, the FMC acts in all ways similar to a flyer with 'Hard to Hit' and flying off the board to enter 'Ongoing Reserves.'  I should note here that the Heldrake is still a flyer, but uses the FMC 'Vector Strike' rule.

And there's a great option that I have to mention- FLYERS!  Flyers kill flyers.  Bring them.  Some aren't so great at it, but some are fantastic!  The worst one I hear about is the Dark Angel's Nephilim Fighter.  But it seems that everyone seems to forget that it can take a twin-linked Lascannon on top of the other weapons (missiles), which can reliably kill a low-armoured vehicle- even in the air!  But this point should be obvious- FIGHT FLYER WITH FLYER, anyone?

Now for some toys that one would have to purchase...
If you are a 40k player and you don't own an Aegis Defense Line by now, you should quit the hobby (I jest, of course).  Even the Tau players in my group have been diligently working to make custom versions just for their xenos-needs.  And with that Aegis comes the option to purchase a gun emplacement- a Quad-gun (two twin-linked Autocannons) or an Icarus Cannon (a Lascannon) with the 'Skyfire' and 'Interceptor' rules.  As long as these guns are manned by a model with a respectable BS, these guns can fire and potentially shoot down flyers rather easily.  In addition, they should be hidden behind the Aegis Line so that they receive the 4+ cover save against anyone smart enough to target them first.  I'm still trying to decide which weapon I want to take.  The Quad-gun is obvious, but the Icarus sure does mean business and is cheaper.  Looks like some trial-and-error are in order here.

Forgeworld also produces some great anti-air units.  My game group decided to allow FW a while ago (we're in it to have fun, not win, and owning badass FW models sure is fun), and IG are great benefactors of that.  But we'll get to them in a moment.  Space Marines get the Hyperion, Eldar get the Firestorm, and other armies have some toys as well (the Tau Skyray came from FW).  Grab the Imperial Armour Aeronautica book, or even the Imperial Armour Apocalypse books, and see what your army gets.

As far as my IG, I'm all about the Manticore and the Hydra.  I won't go into any more details about it, but it bears stating that these models are boss when it comes to ruining a pilot's day.  And that's what I'm trying to do, after all.

This post was a way for me to codify my thoughts and come up with ideas, but I hope it helps anyone else out there as well.  Nothing is guaranteed, but it's alot more dependable when you have a plan.  And since my game group seems to be hell-bent on bringing flyers to the table, it's time I started formulating said plan.  Now to get to work...

Happy Gaming!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

That box has what guns??

After finishing my Word Bearers and sending them off to compete in Chicagoland, I decided to pull out another army and get to working on them again.  Being more than a little burnt-out on Chaos Marines, I had to make the choice of any number of other armies.

The new Tau are beast and downright intimidating, so I thought about jumping on that wagon and riding it from the beneficial side.  But my group has enough Tau players already.  I pulled out my Blood Angels, as you remember from my last battle report, but that army is supposed to be fun and instead is too easy to play.  And that's a big deal with you consider that I'm one of only two people I know that chooses to take Tactical Squads and Rhinos, rather than footslogging Assault Squads in Razorspam.  I remembered that my Dark Angels are just asking to be finished and are already Deathwing-heavy.  But we already have two Dark Angel players in my group.  Ultramarines?  Too much stuff for that; I don't even know where to begin.  Grey Knights, Daemons, and Sisters of Battle collections are all too small to keep my interest long.  Eldar are getting released in a couple of months, so I'll save those.  Which left me with Imperial Guard.

What's that?  Imperial Guard and Tau are both great armies in this new, 'shooty' edition?  Oh yeah!!!  And so I pulled them out.  First off the block was my Death Korps of Krieg (aka, Carrasquillo's Own).  I set up a 1250 point battle with a buddy and played against his tiny Black Templars, and had a blast!  The game was really close in the end, but the conclusion was easy to come to early on.  Here's what we used:

My Death Korps
HQ- Commissar Lord w/Bolter, Power Sword, and Carapace Armor
Elite- 3 Heavy Mortars
Elite- 3 Quad Mortars
Troop- Infantry Platoon Command with Power Sword and Plasma Gunner
  3x Infantry Squads with Plasma Gunners in each
Troop- Infantry Platoon Command with Power Sword, Plasma Pistol, and 2 Meltagunners
  2x Infantry Squads with Meltagunners in each, one Sergeant had a Power Sword
Heavy- Leman Russ with Lascannon, Plasma Cannon Sponsons, and Heavy Stubber
Heavy- Demolisher with Heavy Flamer, Heavy Bolter Sponsons, and Heavy Stubber

His Black Templars
HQ- Master of Sanctity with Plasma Pistol and Holy Orb of Antioch
HQ- Reclusiarch with Jump Pack, Plasma Pistol, and Holy Orb of Antioch
--- Emporer's Champion with 'Accept any Challenge' vow
Elite- 5 Terminators with Thunder-hammer and Storm Shields
Troop- 5 Marines with Plasma Cannon and Plasma Gun(?)
Troop- 5 Marines with Flamer and 2 Neophytes
Troop- 5 Marines with Meltagun(?) and a Neophyte
Fast Attack- 5 Assault Marines with Power Axe
  Normal disclaimer:  I didn't write the army list, so I could be wrong on what he has

The battle started off with Night Fight, which I duly ignored with my artillery (yeah, I broke a rule here, but neither of thought about it and it was too late by the time our resident rules-lawyer intervened) and basically killed off half his infantry.  Then his Marines and Master of Sanctity rushed right at me.  The next turn saw some more artillery and some more tank shooting, and some desperate lasgun-spray by my guys trying to stop his infantry from getting to me.  It didn't work.  Especially when the squad of Terminators showed up.  Then, a turn later, the Assault squad showed up and blew up a Russ.  And onwards the battle went...  Needless to say, the game ended with a Black Templar victory, but graciously only by a single victory point. It was a fun fight, and an expected result.  After all, aren't Space Marines supposed to defeat normal humans on the battlefield?

But, and here's the real point of this post, I found out that the build I had on my Leman Russ was poop.  Just like the lesson I learned with Lightning Claws against Terminators, it was a rule which I knew but was reinforced with PRACTICAL experience.  If you don't know how, let me share:

You see, a Leman Russ is armed with a Battle Cannon.  A Battle Cannon is a terrifying weapon for Space Marines to face.  It's got a strength high enough to 'instant kill' marines, and an AP low enough to ignore their armor.  Better, it's a blast weapon, so the average Ballistic Skill of the human gunner doesn't much matter.  And finally, it's Ordnance, so it's also powerful enough to break open heavily-armoured targets.  And then you get to add other weapons to it.

I have mine with a tank-busting Lascannon, and Terminator-killing Plasma Cannons.  But wait, I can't possibly fire that many weapons from a vehicle, right?  Yes and no.  A Leman Russ is a 'Heavy' vehicle, which means it can fire all of its weapons all the time.  However, a Battle Cannon is Ordnance, which means all other weapons may only be fired as 'snap shots' if the main cannon is used.  And here's where we get tricksy.  Plasma Cannons are 'Blast' type weapons.  Blast weapons may not shoot in 'snap fire' mode.  Which meant that every turn I planned to shoot, I had to choose which guns I wanted to fire.  It was a conundrum that I hadn't thought about.  Of course, I can blame that on the new 6th edition rules, while this tank was built during 5th...

Having learned that lesson the hard way (or at least been reminded at a very inopportune time), I pulled out the rest of my IG and started looking through the bitz to see what I might want to replace it with.  Not wanting to snap the sponson-weapons off, I looked through to see what I have for new turrets.  Here's what I've got and the breakdown of what they can do:

Vanquisher Cannon:  Very long-range, tank-busting Heavy gun with Armour-bane.  It's not 'blast' and is not meant to deal with Infantry AT ALL, so it's a bit specialized.  But I do like big guns.

Exterminator Gun:  It's a twin-linked, 4 shot Autocannon.  It's made for dropping light vehicles and wounding a goodly number of even heavy infantry.  The added benefit of it is that it can serve, reliably, as a flyer-killer in a pinch.  But this is my least favorite since the dirty Space Wolves claimed it for so long...

Eradicator Cannon:  It's a mid-range, cover-busting, tactical nuclear shell.  It's powerful enough to easily wound even Marines, and has the AP value necessary to ignore all BUT marine and Terminator armour, is a 'Large Blast' type weapon, and additionally ignores any cover.  This one is probably very useful against Tau, but requires a close approach, which isn't always wise.

Finally, the Punisher Cannon:  Who likes giant Gatling Guns?  This guy!  It's a 20-shot, Str 5 gun.  It doesn't penetrate armor at all and certainly can't kill anything more than a car, but it lays down a ton of rounds.  Did I mention I like big Gatling Guns?

And therein lies my conundrum.  I have the turret, and I certainly have the chassis, now I just have to choose a gun.  Knowing that I already have a Lascannon and Plasma Cannons on the vehicle, these are the only options available to take full advantage of the tank.  Which main gun would you choose?

Let me know your ideas and why, and that's the direction I'll go.  I'll even make a blog about it!  Not that I need a reason, it seems...  As always, Happy Gaming!